Prof. Harrison Weisinger
M.Sc., Ph.D., MBBS.
Chief Scientific Officer - Kurk
Across a broad range of sports, the ability to train, perform and compete at a high level is limited by the athlete’s ability to recover. Ideally, the time to full recovery is brief – giving enough time for tissue repair and neuromuscular adaptations to take place, but not so long as to delay the next training session or for the athlete to “de-skill”. Indeed, an athlete’s development and attained level of performance is often a function of their natural capacity for recovery, relative to other athletes in the sport. Subjectively, an individual’s sense of recovery equates to the combination of the return to function and the subsidence of soreness, which in turn relate either directly or indirectly to inflammation. With respect to recovery, soreness carries the additional impact of reducing sleep quality, which again impacts an athlete’s subjective readiness to train.
Curcumin is a biologically active polyphenol derived from the rhizome of the turmeric plant. Curcumin has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years as a colourant, a cooking ingredient, and a treatment in Ayurvedic medicine. The enduring medicinal claims sparked what is now over 20 years of scientific interest in the pharmacology of curcumin. There are now thousands of studies to have evaluated the effectiveness of curcumin as a biologically active compound - and there is now consistent evidence of curcumin’s effects in ameliorating both dysregulated inflammation and cancer. As such, the potential for curcumin in the improvement of human health is enormous. Unfortunately, curcumin’s impact has been limited by its poor bioavailability. Curcumin extracted from turmeric is hydrophobic (non-water soluble), existing as large crystals – and it passes through the gut almost completely unabsorbed. Attempts to improve its absorption by mechanically reducing particle size are largely ineffective, and curcumin is notoriously difficult to dissolve in almost all oils.
In 2022, Kurk developed a curcumin formulation that overcomes the issues of poor absorption by creating a micellar emulsion with dissolved curcumin at the core of each particle. In turn, these micelles pass effortlessly across the gut wall and into the circulation. Notably, Kurk’s formulation contains only plant-derived ingredients. Micellar curcumin enters the bloodstream on the order of 1000x more than that of naturally occurring curcumin.
Both of Kurk’s founders are serious (amateur) athletes, and naturally have a keen interest in training and recovery. Of particular interest was the question of whether Kurk’s anti-inflammatory properties could improve post-training and competition recovery.
With this in mind, we conceived a study on 10 ‘combat’ athletes (i.e., those training in the field of mixed martial arts, MMA). MMA athletes train at high intensity and are subject to both frequent and difficult training. The vast majority train at the edges of the day, in addition to working full-time – so they have very little time to recover through rest. A typical week of training may comprise heavy weightlifting, combat sparring, high intensity intervals as well as peripheral exercises such as rowing, swimming, cycling, Pilates or yoga.
We recruited 10 MMA athletes and recorded their responses to a range of questions relating to their recovery over the course of a 12-week period during which they consumed Kurk at a standard dose.
The key findings of the study are summarised below:
Proportion of athletes reporting “Good” or “Very Good” energy levels
- Before taking Kurk: 30%
- By the end of the trial (12 weeks): 85%
Proportion of athletes experiencing no pain within 1 day of a maximal training session:
- Before taking Kurk: 20%
- By the end of the trial (12 weeks): 100%
Proportion of athletes requiring 3 or more days to recover from maximal session:
- Before taking Kurk: 100%
- By the end of the trial: 40%
Proportion of athletes experiencing poor or average motivation to train:
- Before taking Kurk: 70%
- By the end of the trial: 0%
Proportion of athletes experiencing good or very good motivation to train:
- Before taking Kurk: 30%
- By the end of the trial: 90%
Proportion of athletes consuming ibuprofen or painkillers regularly:
- Before taking Kurk: 20%
- By the end of the trial: 10%
Proportion of athletes falling asleep within 30 minutes:
- Before taking Kurk: 40%
- By the end of the trial: 100%
This small study indicates beneficial effects of regular Kurk curcumin consumption. Improvements were observed for perceived energy levels, motivation to train, pain and soreness, sleep, recovery time as well as anti-inflammatory use. It is likely that these are closely linked in that reductions in inflammation translate to less pain and in turn, better sleep, faster recovery and a higher degree of motivation.
The study is further encouragement to continue assessing the benefits of micellar curcumin in other cohorts such as endurance athletes. Furthermore, we plan to collaborate with basic research groups that are already evaluating the mechanisms through which curcumin exerts these effects at a molecular and cellular level.